It was a night of firsts at Tri-County Motor Speedway (NC) on Saturday night. It was the first time the NASCAR Camping World Series East had been at the 4/10th’s mile oval, and it ended with a first-time winner in victory lane. Matt DiBenedetto brought fans to their feet in the closing laps of the Tri-County 150 when he and Austin Dillon battled it out through three restarts to claim the win. DiBenedetto, a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, beat Dillon to the line to claim his first win in only his second start.
“If that wasn’t short track racing at its finest I don’t know what is!” DiBenedetto said from victory lane. “The drivers were beating and banging like crazy! My crew puts in 110 percent so I wanted to put in 110 percent for them. They gave me such a great racecar, and I have to thank Joe Gibbs Racing for giving me this opportunity. It means so much to me. We came in here and didn’t bring a money, sponsor, or anything - this is a dream.”
DiBenedetto initially took the lead from defending champion Matt Kobyluck at lap 76 and looked to be untouchable, but Dillon quietly made his way to the front and the two development drivers swapped the lead six times in the last 50 laps of the race. The action really turned up at lap 142 when the first of three cautions set the stage for a dramatic green-white-checkered finish.
On the green, DiBenedetto lost the lead to Austin Dillon, but then Patrick Long got in the mix and it went three wide for the lead on the following circuit. DiBenedetto emerged the leader but caution came out before the checkers could fall.
DiBenedetto and Dillon again paced the field back to green with Dillon again soaring right to the front. An accident that involved multiple cars on the backstretch reverted the running order to the last completed lap so it was DiBenedetto up front once again.
“I thought we had won the race,” said Dillon, who had made a last minute decision to run at Tri-County. “It was just a heck of a race. I drove him hard, he drove me hard and we had a good race going there. I burned myself up there a little early but we decided to see what we could get out of it. We’re just here to have fun and go out and win races.”
And Dillon had one last shot at it. The final restart came at lap 163 with Dillon pulling out to the front. DiBenedetto knew he only had one shot lot and took the lead back in turn one.
“This race felt like it was 500 laps – I didn’t think it was ever going to end. It was unbelievable, but everything happens for a reason and it worked out in our favor. There was quite a bit of beating and banging going on there but I hoped the fans liked the show,” DiBenedetto said.
Maine driver Alan Tardiff sat on the pole and fought off the challenges of Trevor Bayne to lead the first 16 laps of the race. He completed the day with a career best third place finish. Jody Lavender took over the point lead with his fourth place finish and Patrick Long rounded out the top-five.
Kobyluck, who led 59 laps of the race, faded after the halfway mark and was relegated to a tenth place finish.
The next event for the NASCAR Camping World Series East is a combination race with the West at Iowa Speedway on May 17th.
NASCAR Camping World Series East-Tri-County 150 Unofficial Results
At Tri-County Motor Speedway
Lap length: 0.4 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (3) Matt DiBenedetto, Grass Valley, Calif., Toyota, 165 laps, 57.628 mph, $8,050.
2. (4) Austin Dillon, Lewisville, N.C., Chevrolet, 165, $4,000.
3. (1) Alan Tardiff, Lyman, Maine, Chevrolet, 165, $4,825.
4. (10) Jody Lavender, Hartsville, S.C., Chevrolet, 165, $3,000.
5. (9) Patrick Long, Oak Park, Calif., Chevrolet, 165, $2,500.
6. (2) Trevor Bayne, Knoxville, Tenn., Chevrolet, 165, $1,900.
7. (7) Dakoda Armstrong, New Castle, Ind., Chevrolet, 165, $2,300.
8. (16) Ryan Duff, Hazard, Ky., Chevrolet, 165, $2,000.
9. (15) Dustin Delaney, Mayfield, N.Y., Chevrolet, 165, $1,900.
10. (6) Matt Kobyluck, Uncasville, Conn., Chevrolet, 165, $2,400.
11. (22) Jason Patison, Corona, Calif., Chevrolet, 165, $2,700.
12. (8) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass., Chevrolet, 165, $1,675.
13. (19) Kyle Fowler, Smyrna, Ga., Chevrolet, 165, $1,650.
14. (21) Alex Kennedy, Aztec, N.M., Chevrolet, 165, $1,125.
15. (13) Steve Park, East Northport, N.Y., Chevrolet, 165, $1,600.
16. (20) Ryan Truex, Mayetta, N.J., Toyota, 165, $1,550.
17. (14) Ryan Gifford, Winchester, Tenn., Chevrolet, 165, $1,000.
18. (11) John Salemi, Nashua, N.H., Chevrolet, 165, $975.
19. (24) Antonio Perez, Guadalajara, Mexico, Dodge, 164, $1,440.
20. (23) Dominick Casola, Holmdel, N.J., Chevrolet, 164, $920.
21. (12) Jason Cochran, Daytona Beach, Fla., Chevrolet, 164, $910.
22. (17) Jonathan Smith, Beacon Falls, Conn., Chevrolet, 163, $1,400.
23. (5) Brett Moffitt, Grimes, Iowa, Chevrolet, 162, $1,400.
24. (26) Kristin Bumbera, Sealy, Texas, Dodge, 162, $900.
25. (25) Matt Kurzejewski, Mansfield, Pa., Dodge, 147, accident, $900.
26. (18) Jarit Johnson, El Cajon, Calif., Chevrolet, 130, engine, $900.
Time of Race: 1 hour 8 minutes 43 seconds
Margin of Victory: .340 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: A.Tardiff * (86.946 mph, 16.562 seconds)
Caution Flags: 8 for 43 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Tardiff 1-16; M. Kobyluck 17-75; M. DiBenedetto 76-101; A. Dillon 102-113; M. DiBenedetto 114-146; A. Dillon 147; M. DiBenedetto 148-162; A. Dillon 163-164; M. DiBenedetto 165.
Standings: 1. J. Lavender, 330; 2. M. DiBenedetto, 324; 3. A. Tardiff, 308; 4. P. Long, 305; 5. E. MacDonald, 297; 6. M. Kobyluck, 281; 7. D. Armstrong, 273; 8. S. Park, 264; 9. D. Delaney, 262; 10. R. Duff, 260.